Here's an idea that may sound crazy: How about the New York Yankees offer Rafael Soriano a rich one-year contract and ask him to set up for Mariano Rivera once again in 2013?
Odds are it's not going to happen. The Yankees' 2013 payroll is already projected to be over $206 million by Baseball-Reference.com, and general manager Brian Cashman told Anthony Rieber of Newsday that he's not looking at relievers on the free-agent market.
"I cannot talk about players on the free-agent market," Cashman said. "But I am not looking for bullpen help, I can tell you that."
So there's that, and there's also this from ESPN's Buster Olney:
The Yankees want the draft pick/draft dollars they'll get when Soriano signs elsewhere more than they want him back, no matter the contract.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 7, 2013
If you needed further proof that the Yankees are now penny-pinchers who are obsessed with their long-term future, there you go.
However, I'm still not 100-percent convinced that the idea of Soriano re-upping with the Yankees is crazy, in part because it's at least been considered on one side of the fence.
Told Scott Boras asked #Yankees last month if they'd consider taking Rafael Soriano back on a 1-yr deal. Request flatly denied.— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) January 7, 2013
There may be some hand-tipping going on here. The fact that Boras was willing to run the idea of a one-year deal by the Yankees may be a sign that the market for Soriano is as quiet as it seems.
Soriano is picking an awkward time to seek a multi-year contract. Nobody seems overly willing to buy into the "proven closer" idea after what happened with Heath Bell and the Miami Marlins in 2012, and it doesn't help Soriano that some of the best closers in baseball this past season (i.e. Jim Johnson, Fernando Rodney, Aroldis Chapman) came out of nowhere.
Things would be hard enough for Soriano if this was the only thing working against him, but it's not. He's also tied to draft-pick compensation after turning down the Yankees' qualifying offer, and that's hurting him more than he and Boras probably anticipated.
We've seen Boras be put in this position before, and the good news for Soriano is that he tends to come through in the end. Boras has found lucrative contracts for his clients in January before, and he could do so again for Soriano.
If January turns into February and Soriano still doesn't have a contract, though, that's when the Yankees could make their move.
The Yankees hold one advantage over the other 29 teams in MLB, and that's that they won't have to give up a draft pick if they come to terms with Soriano. That means they don't have to worry about the same major barrier that other teams are worrying about.
As for the incentive to sign Soriano, the Yankees are more in need of an insurance policy for Rivera than they're willing to admit. Rivera's track record speaks for itself, but he's 43 years old and he's coming off the first major injury of his career. The Yankees need a Plan B, and they won't be able to do any better than Soriano.
Even if Rivera does pitch to his usual form in 2013, bullpen depth could be a problem for the Yankees. They have a true shutdown reliever in David Robertson, but they don't have much beyond him. Adding a second shutdown reliever like Soriano would give them a killer bullpen.
The Yankees would have to offer Soriano a significant amount of money to get him and Boras to flinch. Since he turned down a chance to sign for $13.3 million, we're talking a one-year offer for $14 or maybe $15 million.
This would be in addition to the $1.5 million Soriano has already gotten from the Yankees for opting out of his deal. Conceivably, this means he could end up collecting $15.5 million or $16.5 million from the Yankees this winter.
That would be an absurd haul for Soriano, and it's not that absurd to think the Yankees could be willing to give it to him. Their plans for a lower payroll won't kick in until next winter. Between now and then, they could be willing to go for glory with a payroll around $220 million.
As for why Soriano could be willing to accept a one-year deal, he would have to consider how well the deal could work out for him in the long run. Serving as a setup man for one year would lower his free-agent value for next winter, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If Soriano were to serve as a setup man for one year, there's no way the Yankees would make him a qualifying offer again next winter. If so, Soriano would reenter the free-agent waters with no strings attached. More teams could line up to sign him to a multi-year deal.
Granted, the money dynamic would change drastically in this scenario. If nobody's willing to commit to Soriano after a year in which he saved 42 games, nobody's going to be willing to pay him a hefty amount of money over a multi-year deal next winter if he doesn't save any games in 2013. The fact that he'll be 34 years old won't help.
However, if the money Soriano would make in one more season with the Yankees were to be combined with the money he could make in a multi-year deal next winter, the grand total could be fairly close to what he and Boras may be seeking this winter.
Considering all these things, there's a chance that Soriano and the Yankees will get back together. A reunion would make sense for the Yankees so long as they don't mind spending a fortune to shore up their World Series odds, and a reunion could end up satisfying Soriano's financial goals in the long run.
I'll reiterate once more that even I realize that we're talking about the slightest of chances here. It feels like Boras is being put in his place, but it could be mere minutes before he finds Soriano a multi-year contract worth a couple truckloads of cash. And as much as some fans really want them to keep spending, the Yankees seem to be truly finished handing out large checks this winter.
But we'll see. There's a deal to be struck here, and it could get done if the Yankees were to suddenly remember who they are and how much money they have.
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